Why using ‘Mrs’ holds women back

The wedding season is fully upon us and couples who have waited to have free rein on guest numbers are now finally able to celebrate in the way they want. Hurrah hey?! 

‘Mr and Mrs’ cards and mugs are ready for purchase in all the shops, but how many brides really consider what it means to change their title?

It may not seem like a big thing in the throes of a happy union. Perhaps the change of surname is a bigger identity shift, and that therefore the title is less considered?

Here are our three reasons why using ‘Mrs’ may hold you back, and certainly holds up the quest for a gender equal society:

1.There’s a LOT of paperwork involved in the change.

For new husbands, their title doesn’t change, and if they follow tradition, they get to retain all part of their identity. Title. First name. Surname. Every part. 

For a bride, there is a sea of paperwork ahead, and traditionally, her first name is the only part of her identity to stay the same.

Hitched.co.uk, (an advice and product website for wedding planning), suggests that there are 24 places to change your name, and therefore your title:

  • The passport office (although there are no titles on a person’s passport due to titles not being part of our legal identity)
  • The DVLA (driving licence, vehicle registration)
  • HM Revenue and Customs
  • Child Benefit
  • Local Authority (Council tax and electoral register)
  • Land Registry
  • Student Loans
  • Your employer
  • Your bank or building society
  • Your mortgage provider
  • Your pension providers
  • Credit card companies
  • Your phone & broadband provider
  • Your doctor
  • Your dentist
  • Your vet
  • Your gym
  • Your motoring organisations (breakdown cover)
  • Utility companies (gas, water, electricity providers)
  • Your insurance company (motor, home, travel, pet)
  • Loans companies
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Store cards & online accounts
  • Any clubs or societies you are a member of.

To be an UTTER killjoy and point out the statistics, 33% of marriages in the UK end in divorce, leaving the woman (and only the woman) to change her name back again. Also leaving her rudderless regarding titles, often choosing anything just to get past the question. 

Divorcee from Bristol, Alison, told us:

“I really hadn’t thought about taking on a new title. I just started using ‘Mrs’ along with my ex’s surname, and because we didn’t have children it was an easy decision to change it back again when we divorced four years later. 

The title part was annoying though because it seemed silly. I couldn’t be ‘Miss’ again, but ‘Mrs’ with my maiden name sounded like my mother. It was a proper conundrum!”

2) It takes time and money.

A name and title change doesn’t happen overnight. Every phone call to do it takes time and money, and a whole lot of effort posting copies of the marriage certificate, (sometimes the original), to all corners of the country. 

The DVLA dishes out fines of upto £1000 if you don’t notify them of a change to your personal details. 

Despite titles not being on a person’s passport, they can be listed in the observations section, and a surname change will cost £75.50.

This doesn’t seem to be putting women off however. Amy L.Erickson, the reader in Feminist History who we interviewed back in July 2020 said that that whilst there was a huge movement by women to adopt ‘Ms’ as a title, rejecting ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’, that we seem to have gone backwards. 

She said she hears of ‘Ms’ less and less, in the UK and in America. 

3. The identity shift is a big one, and an unequal one. 

Entering into marriage should be about an equal union. Not a property transaction or a statement of ‘belonging’. 

If a man in the relationship doesn’t need to change his name and title then there is no justification for a woman in a marriage to do so.

The identity shift often proves too much for many women who decide to keep their original surname and give ‘Ms’ as a title when prompted. 

Holly from Nottinghamshire told us;

“I didn’t see why I should take on a new surname because I was getting married, and it didn’t seem fair. The more I thought about it, the more stubborn I became about it. It felt like a lot to give up.”

Carolyn from Oswestry said;

“The surname change and marital status title change did bother me. 

It felt very old to be writing ‘Mrs’ on everything. But so did ‘Ms’. Although I can’t write ‘Miss’ now, so I hate putting anything at all. I feel like an imposter!” 

For those who become a ‘Mrs’, there is an unavoidable release of information to businesses that a husband doesn’t need to experience. A business cannot tell whether a man is married by his title. 

This quote from Mark in Nottingham says it all:

“My wife Grace and I had a few ‘Mr and Mrs’ things as little wedding gifts, and I thought it was just funny really. I’ve always been a ‘Mr’, so nothing’s changed for me, so drinking out of my mug is a bit like…”yeah. and?!”

The suggestion of forsaking this new marital identity of course will have some women who can’t wait to be a ‘Mrs’ sizzling with anger. 

We are indeed sometimes criticized by women who mistake the GoTitleFree campaign as a campaign against womanhood, but we’re not deniers of love or running a campaign against the institution of marriage. 

This is about equality, and about anybody being able to freely chose an identity which suits them. Unfortunately the last four years have taught us that trying to be ‘title free’ is trickier than it sounds, with many business still adding the ‘title’ drop down as a mandatory field. 

No woman or non-binary person should be subjected to explaining themselves in a way which men don’t have to do. 

Of course some women have created an entire identity around their married status. Mrs Hinch became famous after creating an Instagram account in 2018 about cleaning her home.

Also, rejecting the title ‘Mrs’ may be just a very small statment in a bigger fight towards a gender equal world, but every time every woman challenges the request, we will inch that little bit close to a fair society.

Being a married woman and calling yourself ‘Mrs’ are two different things, and they needn’t to go hand in hand. 

Any happily married and devoted people who may be reading this thinking that we’re bashing the very idea of marriage should inspect the blog title again. We say ‘using Mrs’, not ‘being a Mrs’.

People without a title can be just as happy with their husbands as those who don’t. You can walk down the aisle, choose any surname you like, go title free, and still live happily ever after.

Stella Sutcliffe

For some examples of organisations who are going title free, and some free top tips on how to become more gender inclusive as an organisation, register for our next event:

3.30pm BST on Friday September 9th 2022 – Register here  

To use our toolkits now and start your organisational journey, click here

To sign our petition for organisations to go ‘title free’, click here

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